Friday, 30 May 2014


In a fit of efficiency, I've paid the final instalment of my Derby entry fee, taken out insurance, and submitted my visa application to the Mongolian embassy.  After a small but wistful moment looking at the flag.

I can't quite believe I've even got this far...

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Wet and windy Wales

The Hay Festival is great when the sun shines....  And not so great when it chucks it down.

But I didn't mind, because some Derby training was planned.  After a hearty breakfast...

Catherine and I went for a walk...

And then got on two tiny and very fat mountain ponies and spent a happy couple of days charging around the mountains...

Heading towards the Black Mountain

On the ridge

A ger!

Dancing pony

A cheerful Catherine - looking forward to Mongolia!

Saturday, 24 May 2014

The call of the steppe

Seems like even for those who grew up on a horse in Mongolia, the call of the steppe is irresistible...

Mongolians on horseback project begins


The Mongolians on Horseback project, which aims to travel on horseback across a distance of 8,538 km in six months, through 100 soums of 15 provinces of Mongolia, launched two weeks ago.

Five Mongolian men started their trip from Tsonjinboldog to Umnugovi Province on May 9. Students majoring in geography and tourism at the Mongolian State University of Education, N.Ganzorig, M.Batchuluun and Ts.Davaakhuu, initiated the project.

The three are accompanied by photographer from Photo Pictures Studio Ch.Boldbaatar and cameraman of ETV D.Natsagdoo. A documentary film about the project will be created during the trip.

In addition, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, General Authority for Border Protection, Mongolian Democratic Union, Tumen Khishigten project and G-Mobile are sponsoring the project. Designer Ariunaa Suri made the outfits for the team.

 The following is a brief interview with one of the students, N.Ganzorig.

 How many horses will you travel with? How will you ensure your safety?

Preparation was huge because our goal is big. We are planning to travel with three horses per person. We have 15 horses in total. We prepared barley flour and dried meat for food.

There is not much water in Umnugovi, Bayankhongor and Khovd provinces. How will you travel across the Gobi?

It is difficult to cross the area on horseback. That is why we will travel close to soums.

How will you pass the taiga of Khuvsgul and Khentii provinces, and the Altai Mountains?

We will change our horses in Bulgan soum of Khovd Province. The Altai Mountains is one of our biggest obstacles. So we will go through soums.

How will you arrange your study during this trip?

Teachers and director of the Mongolian State University of Education have not supported our project. We took a year’s leave from school. There is nothing to regret.

Can you ride a horse?

I was raised in the countryside. I have ridden horses since I was six.

You can read the original here:

Thursday, 22 May 2014


One can no more approach people without love than one can approach bees without care.  Such is the quality of bees...

My friend Clem is a traveller by trade and vocation, lately by vocation more than trade perhaps.  I seem always to be saying goodbye and good luck or hello and how was it - she's a journalist though, so I follow some of her travelling by reading...  Here's a great post she wrote about my home city, Manchester, for the Weekendist.

I caught her on a brief visit to London before she heads off again to Nigeria, somewhere I have always wanted to
go to see this sort of thing...  

No better artists anywhere

It is always hard to say goodbye but we ate well and drowned our sorrows with excellent beer at the Garrison on Bermondsey Street...

Bon voyage Clem: what an awfully big adventure you've got ahead x

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Mad dogs and Englishmen...

Go out in the midday sun!

Marrakech has to be one of the most wonderful, extraordinary places I have ever visited.

We stayed at the beautiful Riad Akka...

Please note appropriate reading material 

Ate breakfast on the Riad's roof terrace...

Saw all the sights...

The Koutoubia

The Bahia Palace

Saadian tombs

And dinner at a selection of great restaurants- the v.Euro Euro darling cafe Arabe for the sunset...

Dar Essalem, a restaurant in a 17th century mansion, to follow in the footsteps of Doris Day and James Bond...

Where we giggled as a delightful old chap in red trousers was transfixed by a wobbly belly dancer - no photo, but oh - the look on his face!

And Riad Monceau for the birthday treat of a dear friend - Nick Mead, scourge of the Souk.

We did lots of shopping, naturally, as I was visiting with a superb negotiator...

Buying Berber jewellery

Shopping in Marrakech with Nick Mead was one of the most amusing things I have ever done.  It was even funnier to translate backwards and forwards - here are some choice snippets:

At the Maison de Kaftan Marocain
(Shopkeeper, gazing dreamily at me clad in a wizardy robe)
"Monsieur, your wife is beautiful.  She is like a gazelle.  If I had a wife as beautiful as yours, I would not just buy her this [overpriced jelaba]; I would buy her all [gesturing expansively at the entirety at Maison du Kaftan Marocain] this and more."

...some negotiation...

(Nick to shopkeeper, very firmly)
"I'm afraid this (1/5 of price quoted) is my final price."

(Shopkeeper to me, looking at a Nick as if his stinginess was an indication of wife-beating tendencies)
"Wah!  He is a hard man.  Madame, I am sorry, but your life is hard."

...following conclusion of negotiations...

"Madame, your husband, I think he is a Berber."

At a Moroccan bric-a-brac shop 
(Me, clutching a silver-edged item to my heart)
I think we could manage a bit more...

Absolutely not.

(Me, apologetically, to shopkeeper)
I'm terribly sorry, but he makes the decisions. I am a sad lady and my life is hard.

(Shopkeeper, looking daggers at Nick)
"Madame, you are kind but this is a Good Price and you, Monsieur, are a Bad Man."

Happy birthday Nick Mead - I won't say how old you are, but you'll always be 27 to me xxxx

Tuesday, 20 May 2014


I've been bad, very bad.

Why haven't I updated for ages?  Car crash, resultant gloom caused by the inevitable travel and financial nightmare (am now back in happy denial) and, honestly, not much to report.  There's only so much you can say about riding horses, however lovely and character-ful and there's a serious limit on what you can say about other training.  Which only leaves my personal life.  And no-one is interested in that!

So...  I'm pinching content again.  Here's a video in packing light. No rocket science, but one or two lols...

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Travel disasters

This week, travelling has been fraught...

But, thank you God, here I sit at Gatwick gate 567, cooled by the lovely aircon and waiting, yes, waiting, for my flight to Marrakesh.  It's a miracle.

In no particular order, here are my travel disasters of this week:

1. Car ends life due to accident;
2. Last minute change of flight due to disorganisation at great expense;
3. Forget passport. Panic;
4. Trains not running because it's the weekend and I live in broken Britain;
5. Get on wrong train once I'm past the apocalyptic zone of Central South East London. Board tram (wtf?!). Run;
6. Lock on suitcase breaks. All cash and credit cards are locked inside;
7. Living life on the edge, spend last £20 on trashy novels and San Pellegrino.

What's your worst travel disaster? And was it salvageable?